Happy Hour Conversations: Making Connections

Lunch for one along the New River, Ft. Lauderdale

It was one of those events at which you don’t think you’ll see the people again, so you talk freely or question others with abandon. Somehow, in my desire to use my time wisely and listen to other people, I ended up being questioned and talking more than I wanted to about a subject that I had no desire to talk about.

The woman who sat to my left at this “Women Over 50” group dinner still works part-time as a marriage therapist. She was disappointed that I was long divorced and, thus, unable to save my marriage with her sage advice. Nonetheless, she plowed forward, wanting to know what I did or did not do that may or may not have contributed to the failure of the marriage and the bitter divorce process itself. Fun Happy Hour!

As I talked, she seemed more interested in the conversation than me. I had no desire for this ancient rehash. There’s a point when the past disconnects and transforms into a narrative that has no relation to your current life or self. It’s history that you already learned from and have no desire to see what else can be gleaned. We last lived in the same house in 2009. Don’t I get a reprieve from all the know-betterers at some point?

Once I managed to get the conversation to her, I realized why she wanted to focus on me. Her husband died two years ago, but she had been his primary caregiver for years and she still seemed exhausted by the experience and the loss. Her sadness came through, but so did the frustration with a chain of unhelpful home aides. This then transitioned to anger and more frustration when she talked about her step-daughter with addictions and all that comes with that, including a system that put her grandchild back into an unstable situation. It seems that perhaps my divorce was the light part of the conversation for her, the place where she could be the professional, not the patient.

I next talked to a woman across from me who had been a social worker and was also still clearly identifying with her profession. When I said that I planned to move to live near my daughters, she kept saying “live your life, live your life.” This, also, turned out to be advice to self as she told me that her husband died a year ago. and her son and daughter-in-law, who had moved in with her temporarily before COVID, were still there. In fact, she left with bags of take-out for them. She also warned me about scams on dating apps. I’m not on any of those any more, but I was glad for her that she hadn’t given up yet on finding someone. Her advice to me, noted, but I don’t see how spending time with family takes away from my life.

Somehow, I managed to talk to those two before the conversation-hog across from me got to monopolizing the table. With her, I was definitely off the hook of having to answer any questions about my divorce or my future. What was interesting about her was how uninteresting she was, very boisterously. She mainly talked about a birthday party her family had for her mother back home in Colombia. There was time off from work. There were flowers. There was music and dancing. There was even her surprising her mother that she was there. (Since she didn’t need any dialogue, just our nods, I didn’t get to question the wisdom of surprising a 90-year-old woman.)

In the last few minutes when we were paying our bills, I spoke to the woman on my right. Her advice, after telling me that she can’t travel anymore because she needs knee replacement surgery, was that I should make sure to travel before it’s too late.  

On the drive home, I felt surprisingly good about the event. The food was mediocre and the conversations frustrated me, but I got out of the house and my head, and met some new people. It’s not always necessary to have an insightful conversation for it to be a worthwhile one. Each of us got out of the walls we live within to connect, however lightly, with other people. There are now some new people and stories in my head.

Looking back at the evening, I’d say that it had been a few happy hours because connections are just as important as relationships.

My Friends’ Husbands

Dogs and Cats Walkway Sculpture Garden, Maurice A. Ferré Park, Miami

My friends have nice husbands. That observation came about when a friend’s husband briefly chatted with me as I started a zoom call with his wife. Later that same day, another friend’s husband did the same thing. They made me feel included in their lives and that I was their friend too.

Because of them, and a few other husbands (who often do the same thing, wave included), I lost the last vestiges of the bitter lumping together of all men that had been lingering since my divorce in 2007. Their generally kind demeanors have forced me to be more accepting and to become a feminist who is not against men, but for women. I don’t know if it’s more effective in getting women through those darn glass ceilings and with complete authority over their bodies, but it feels a little calmer inside me as I go about my life. It's nice not to distrust every man.

At the same time that I made that realization about my friends’ husbands, it also occurred to me that most of my friends are married. That hadn’t been the case for a long time. When I was getting divorced and then for years after, most of my friends were divorced. Except for one (and I wonder about that now), we all had stories of control and abuse—emotional, verbal, or physical—that we bonded over, where “to bond” means that someone understands you without blaming you or telling you what you should have done differently.

Perhaps the good guys do finish first since their marriages are the ones that last. Seems to me the charismatic guys that some of us were drawn to turned out to spoil, like the last piece of cake that turns your stomach because you just couldn’t resist eating it even though you knew that you already had enough and were going to get sick if you had any more sugar. Next time, you keep hoping, you will finally listen to your body and stop.

These men, who wave and say hello in the background of zoom calls as they go on their way, and their wife and I settle down to analyze our lives and the world (and the horrible things that, mainly, men are doing—ah, the temptation to generalize because sometimes there is truth behind the generalization), add a dimension to my life—in addition to what their wives add.

With one friend, we have had mutual “speaking to the choir” rants for years, where we basically echo each other’s thoughts about the state of the world and the people in charge. Another friend, who I have known since elementary school, while she has a much different life than mine, our similar beginnings and the things that matter to us have created a strong friendship. I’ve joined a relatively new friend in trying to change the world, which is, surely, a powerful bonding experience. (Wave to husbands and wives here!)

And now another realization: with these friends I focus on the external world, rather than wallowing in the warmth of self-pity (which I did enjoy; I don’t understand why self-pity is a bad thing when it’s a building block of “things can only get better”). Until this moment, I didn’t even realize that I had made this transition. I had mourned the loss of my divorced-friends’ friendships, but I see now that it was more of a sloughing of what was no longer essential. Our important work was done. We had built each other back up. Sharing our bitter stories helped me (us, I hope) heal into appreciating a wave of hello without feeling a stab of regret and thoughts of bad choices. Rather, they helped me to think that maybe I could have a small slice of cake now.

Marriage and Divorce Anniversary: Reflections on Being Alone


Thirty-seven years ago this week, I got married. Fifteen years ago this week, my divorce was finalized. This week, I’m dogsitting, which means that I’m staying in someone else’s home taking care of their pet. (Coincidentally, the owner went to a wedding.) These three points in time could be the things that I tell someone I’ve just met to explain my life. I can’t decide, though, if this is cause for tears of sadness or joy, or just a bit of bitter self-reflection in which to stew.

It wasn’t easy to have moved on from a failed marriage and a nasty divorce; that took years. Time during which I savored my independence. Time when I also experienced being fully myself and the stillness that is me.

Does the demand that we live in the moment punish us, make us feel we are not doing life the right way, if we live a mainly sedentary, word-engrossed life?

Having moved the day I retired, from Northern Virginia to South Florida, meant that I was starting over, once again. There had been the move from New York to Israel, and then from Israel to Virginia. There had been the change from being single to married to divorced. There was the transition from being a parent with children at home to being a parent who occasionally sees her adult children after long plane trips.

It's good that I forget what I thought my life would be like and accept what it is, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t experience malaise and disappointment. My life is steeped in solitude and knowing that it could have been different, leads to both regret and relief. It also makes me determined to not let inertia win.

This last move seemed so easy: just get into my stuffed car and drive south on I95. But it not only took away the one home I created on my own, it changed relationships with good friends, and meant the loss of acquaintances whose good mornings and hellos were comforting acknowledgements. While I don’t regret the move, I can still experience it as a loss.

The pain of divorce is not just the resulting aloneness, but the feeling of failure at having picked the wrong person, at not being able to make it work, at wondering if I missed what my life should have been. After the divorce, I had two other failed relationships, which just adds to the burden that I carry that I will remain alone, when, sometimes, I wonder if I would be happier with a partner.

It's funny. For a long time, most of my friends were single. Now, mainly because of fallings-out, those women who had been my rocks and activity partners are no longer in my life. My married friends have proven their friendship and over the time that I have known them, I see the solidity and safety they have created with their spouses. Clearly, we are all different and we each have our own path to travel, however circuitous, but to not pause and wonder and feel the moment’s emotions seems that it would be a stop and not part of the journey into my future.

This is a day when I acknowledge that I have so much to be grateful for, but remorse has captured my heart. When I finish writing and posting this, I feel that tears will no longer be held back by the process of trying to understand. What is there to understand? I made choices and I am living with the result. All is well. Though I ache for change and I know, oh, yes, I definitely do, that it is up to me to do what I must to not face regret more than joy.

From Eating Out to Taking Out


The progression from needing to be around other people at mealtimes to accepting being alone represents an arc to wellness that incorporates, dare I say it, happiness. Suddenly I realize that the need to sit in a booth consuming fries and diet Coke while staring at a book has become a remembrance, no longer a salvation.

In the five years it took from separating, to divorcing, to selling the marital home, to moving on my own with shared custody of younger daughter while older daughter escaped to college, I would weekly escape to a favorite diner for a Sunday meal. It was an escape valve from the hothouse atmosphere at home. Those moments of disconnection and quiet amid the sounds of other people’s mundane conversations were as sweet as the smells of syrup and bacon. It’s funny the things that save a person. It is a balance of things, though, for how can I separate the range of interactions to an essential one; it is a distillation of experience that is now my past.

Now, more than nine years after moving on my own and discovering that, indeed, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but only because there were mini-lights along the way, I think about how I rarely eat out alone. When I do, it’s usually for the eating, not the necessity of escape, of company, of saving self.

When I am with friends at restaurants it is as interaction, not as preservation. We look back, we look forward, we are not mired in present. We mull the present, but it does not weigh us down. Is it acceptance? One friend just turned fifty, another sixty. Are our lives less dramatic or are we realists with more time behind than ahead, aware of less time to squander, consolidated better into self? Have we accepted the positions we have reached, the families we have or have not created, the men we do or do not love, the people we have become?

Now, I do not need to escape the silence that I come home to since it is not the alternative to something else, it is what I have created, what I need, who I am.

Morning Waves of Envy

June 2017 Bronx Botanical Garden
Rose Garden, Bronx Botanical Gardens


I’m trying to figure out if I’m envious of my colleagues and friends who have recently entered into serious relationships, or if I’m just a good friend who’s happy for their happiness. The of-the-moment me, before my me-me-me thoughts intrude, jumps up and down for joy, echoing their abandon and confidence. Who could deny the sensuous pull of new love?

The cynical part of me, though, feels as would a woman in a long-term relationship (I had been in one of those; 21-years) who looks on with a haughty, bemused expression, thinking back to her own romantic beginnings and where they had led her. Wondering, as the weight of her accumulated grievances bring her down, how could anyone be so naïve.

But the part of me that’s a tad uneasy about being alone in the somewhat-distant future, when I start to fall apart inside and out, wishes that envy were at my core, driving me to actively seek out someone whom I could love for making me feel protected and adored. A stroke to the ego and a helping hand can’t be the worst things in the world, especially when I can imagine regret tearing at the edges of my days and a wobble as I steady myself for standing.

My bitter divorce (10 years next month!—unbelievable how time zooms), my brief manipulative relationships, and various bland dates should have cleared me from harboring envious thoughts, but, I realize sadly, they have not. I really do wish my thoughts were untainted, but, unfortunately, they aren’t. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to act on them, though, because my envy-penetrating walls still offer more comfort than unease.

As I see picture after picture of couples enjoying summer baseball games at stadiums around the country, I wonder, as I sit at my dining/writing table, about missing the opportunities that paired life seamlessly present. Again, envy prickles, because isn’t that, still, what I’m supposed to want. It’s hard to look past the social norm that summer vacation is to accumulate shared experiences, especially with a partner.

For a while now my purpose has been unmoored from that base, though still tenuously tethered to that ill-fitting norm, hence the creep of envy. But what if my purpose has morphed to ensure that I always have solitary breathing time and space from which the thoughts that nourish me propagate, and not for the activities and chatter. Perhaps the envy surfaces to force me to continually re-assess my stability and happiness. Perhaps it is not to unnerve me and push me toward abandoning my path, but rather to check in, to see if this is still right for me.

Looking at those paired smiles I need to invite the envy, not fear it, for I want my life to remain vibrantly my own. I need to anticipate that my perceptions may change and not shut them out, beyond my walls. For now, envy quickly fades back to sympathy, signaling that, for now, I am right where I need to be.


Why Date?

Cherry tomato

The last of the cherry tomatoes growing on my balcony.

It’s been a while since my ex-husband ruined my life. So long ago, in fact, that sometimes I think about how his life has been ruined and feel sorry for him, and not in the pitying vindictive way people imply when they mention karma.

The years of shredding my self-confidence have faded, leaving behind the dullness of disappointment. In him. In myself. Making me, not quite regret, but wonder about what might have been if we had caught ourselves before bitterness seeped into the solitary spaces of a marriage between opposites.

The impact, though, is on far more than the lost possibilities in our joint past; it is in my resistance to wanting to have a relationship today.  

I tell friends that there are no men to meet, that no men attract me, and I joke about the men online (who start each sentence of their profile with “I,” and have manly pictures on motorcycles, and refer to women as girls, and write about wanting to impale a woman’s mind into his mind to discover something worthwhile). And about the men who make it past that hurdle to a date [there were the guys with whom I barely made it through the complementary one hour of conversation; the antisemite who thought he was going to score; the guy who brought his own teabag to Starbucks (not because he was a tea snob, but so he could just pay for his cup of hot water); the guy who didn’t believe in evolution (he made it to date five and sex before this revelation); and the married guy whose wife had a brain tumor who left (after paying the bill) when I was in the bathroom, sick from attempting to drink two lemon drop martinis]. I even comment, in a completely judgmental way, to my mother that when I look at my friends’ husbands, there is not a one who, in other circumstances, would entice me. Nice men, but not the man for me. She, being a supportive mother, states the same about her friends’ husbands.

Notwithstanding my objective lack of success, I wonder if there is a subjective element that bars me from meeting the/a man. Perhaps the question isn’t Why haven’t I met someone, but—with a slight shrug—Why would I want to meet someone.

The last time I was in a relationship was more than four years ago, with Kenny, who lived with me and my younger daughter for a year and a half. He said he loved me with all his heart and would do anything for me. Anything, it turned out, but make me happy. In that relationship I was increasingly stifled by his need to be acknowledged and loved in the ways that suited him. Which, not surprisingly, inevitably meant his disappointment in something I did or did not do in accordance with his desires, which, of course, made his love for me “better” than my love for him. I will freely admit that I ignored his request to wear dresses when we went out. Even if I liked wearing dresses, which I don’t (and he could have seen that in our closet), that was a huge invite for me to definitely not wear a dress even if I felt like it. Why is it so difficult for men to understand one of the thickest redlines they should not cross with a woman (it can’t just be me) is to tell her what to wear. I got the petulant silent treatment for wearing pants.

My reaction to his suggestion/demand shouldn’t have been a surprise because during our long conversations, when he was living in Beirut and then Belfast, I would tell him how harmed I had been by my husband’s controlling ways. He had been so understanding and supportive. He knew that I was dealing with the residual pain of insults and put downs, of my desires deemed wrong or inappropriate, and my need to not be curated.

So his man-structing was unexpected and devastating.

When we argued, I couldn’t leave the room because of his fear of abandonment. But what of my need to be alone and think so as not to immediately lash out? Being told that I needed to argue in a way that supported him was another redline too many. The relationship became as if on a continuum with how my husband had tried to control my actions and thoughts and emotions, or maybe it was worse because I had opened up to Kenny about retreating into self and how I was trying to not shut down.  

The best part of that relationship were the trips we took together. We would talk in the car, opening up our internal monologues as we drove along the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or along highways and backroads from Virginia to Key West and back again. We wanted to stop at the same time and try the same places, and we even needed pee breaks at the same time. We were in unison, at least on the road. But at home, his need to be taken care of, which had to be done exactly as he wished to prove my love and to prove that he was lovable, underpinned his declarations of love. I was increasingly reminded of how unhappy I had become in my marriage as I tried now to make him happy. I didn’t have the energy or the desire to take on someone else’s emotions.

If you’re not one of my daughters, then I don’t want to take care of you. (Except, maybe my mother, and I’m dreading that scenario.) And he did want to be taken care of. As did my ex-husband.

And I did it.

But I don’t want to anymore.

On weekends, I don’t want to think about what someone else wants for breakfast and I don’t want to try to anticipate his desires. And to be fair, I don’t want someone trying to cater to me.

My standing weekend desire for a soft scrambled egg with feta and fresh herbs from my balcony garden, right after I wake up and take Poops for his morning walk, and as soon as the coffee in the French press is ready, the bread toasted to a warm brown, every section of the newspaper available, and no talking required, is, frankly, why I don’t want to date.

Beyond the fear of being hurt and undermined again, lies the very basic question: What do I want out of my life?

Surely my inability to formulate a substantial why I should want to be in a relationship is a reflection of past failures, but I can’t help but dread that it would be more of a diversion from how I want to live and what I want to do, than a benefit. Do I want to be in a relationship just to have someone with whom I can travel or rehash the stresses of the workday? My inability to even perceive a relationship as a source of respectful, supportive love shows my state of being.

My two friends who date the most, and are in and out of relationships like my high school students, are also the ones with the most out-going personalities. Both of their lives center around doing, and not around contemplation (there are no books in their homes) or fulfilling an inner drive to create or express themselves. Perhaps relationships are their manner of expression.

I would rather sit by myself in an internal monologue than have a conversation, day in and day out, just to fill the time and play a role.

Am I missing the chance at a great love that will imbue my world with joy?

I had that grand romantic love when I was first with my ex-husband. I needed it then. He helped pull me out of myself and into the world. I was aglow; I bubbled. Now when I think about those years it occurs to me how intensely focused we were on each other. I can’t imagine wanting to narrow down my life again. If by some outrageous dating app algorithm that intensity of love at 22 were to revisit me, that insular quality of being part of a couple is not something I want to relive. An identity as part of a couple is not something for which I yearn.

I was married for 21 years; approximately 15 of those made the marriage worthwhile. So moments of envying people in marriages and relationships are quickly overridden when I realize that I prefer to be alone or with different friends, without limiting myself, then always having a partner, even if he is not physically present at that moment.

A life of placid contentedness is not a surrender, it is lake upon which I float or into which I plunge, knowing that no one will interrupt my daydreaming in the tub.  


Nature Reserve Florida 2015


In what turned out to be a break between snow and ice storms in Northern Virginia, I visited my mother in Southern Florida. As a gesture to hope, I packed my sandals and capris—and I got to wear them the entire time! No Uggs that weekend.


We did the women-in-the-family trifecta: eating lots in and more out, light sightseeing, and intense clothing and shoe shopping. My mother started the tradition with me, and I proudly continue it with my daughters. Who am I to reject a tradition that involves pastrami, pad thai, bagels, the beach, and new sandals?


While there, essentially to check on my 81-year-old mother, she sent an email to older daughter with “Mom” in the subject line. Older daughter, as another tradition would have it, immediately worried that something had happened to me. But no, my mother was emailing her to say nice things about me. Her momentary anxiety, while not fun for her, made me feel appreciated. I know, I should feel that already, and I do, but sometimes tangibles make the intangible tangible. For my mother, (I hope) it was that visit; for me, it was older daughter’s concern and younger daughter’s texts as I journeyed back to the tundra-on-the-Potomac; for them, it should be the souvenir tee shirts that I purchased and planned to buy even before booking my flight.


A tangible that became even more tangible was how alone I am when I’m not reinforcing tradition at DSW. Having to roll my suitcase with me each time I went to the bathroom and as I walked up and down the concourse to exercise away my too early airport arrival, while other women simply nodded to their husbands and tapped their suitcase was, to my travel-tense mind, an indictment against me. The regrets from the dissolution of my marriage and the what-ifs that swirl around have a party whenever I’m at the airport; they overwhelm my otherwise sane acknowledgement that the past cannot be re-lived and to live with the result without a never-ending trial. There’s something about being confronted with couples and families going about their family business when I am traveling alone, even if it is to family, that slurs my convictions.


At this point, after years of mulling and rolling, I don’t know what I could have done differently; though the flipside of my could is his equally logical could, but going there is too painful, and full of real and imagined guilt.


My mother loves to psychoanalyze my ex, but I can’t. I think she does this to support me, but I have no need or desire to rehash his wrongs and find the source of his flaws. We did that for years when I would call her from my car seeking her solace and support, crying after he cursed me and insulted me to the girls once again. Maybe she misses when I needed her? But as much as a marriage and a divorce can transform from something living to something inanimate (a block in the shape of time and experience), this has reached that stage. I only wish him well. Besides, with distance I find it easier to find fault with myself, because isn’t it that fun, and I know that that’s a trap.


So the past can, in the same instant, be both the past and the present. What’s key is to keep it contained there, and not allow it to seep into the future, and that requires that I still the theorizing and the fault-finding. I was the me of then, and now I am a different me.


Sometimes you see yourself and you wonder how it is that you haven’t changed in all these years, and then at other times you wonder when you had that growth spurt.  


Daughters and a Single Mother’s Vulnerabilities

Elizabethan Garden April 2014

In the normal way of things (meaning if I were still married), my daughters wouldn’t know me nearly as well as they know me in my single state.

In a text exchange the other day with my younger daughter, I told her that I changed the notification sound for her texts to a bird chirping.

“You gotta know when I’m texting you so you can avoid it ASAP,” she texted.

To which I replied, jokingly, “You know me so well.”

“I like to think so,” she responded.

Her comment made me think about how much she and her sister do know me and how much that’s because I am a single mother, not because I am their mother/friend. If I had still been married to their father, he would have been my sounding board (of course, his inability to be my sounding board is one reason we’re no longer married), which would have enabled me to expose far fewer vulnerabilities. My daughters would not have seen me falter and then push against their father. If I had remained deflated by his controlling ways and words, they probably would have kept their distance from me because why should they seek support from someone who can’t stand up for herself?

They would not have seen me fall in and then out of love with another man. I would have remained an example of someone settled into the sway of long-married life. They would not have seen me wonder if my new relationship had veered into settling territory, or if it was loving but not in a way that was nurturing for me. I lost my ability to be an icon to look up to and, perhaps, emulate; instead, I have become an example (a warning?) of how love and the desire for it can play havoc with us at any age and stage.

Even the financial realities of being a teacher (purpose over paycheck) would have been shielded from them by the power of two salaries and a closed door for parents-only to deal with money matters. My determination to prevent their monetary ignorance, as I had been, might not have been there if I had been cushioned by their father’s, at one time, substantial salary. Then, again, I wouldn’t have had the same struggles, but at least they see what it means to make it on their own—in or out of a relationship. My older daughter is in a relationship with a financially secure man, but she understands the need to be independent even within dependence.

Surely the time that might have been spent propping up and soothing their father’s ego (or another man’s) went to them. And the time that might have been spent cuddling, goes to them. But it’s not only time that I gave and give to them, it’s about having been unable to hide the realities of my life and my personality from within the huddle of a relationship, and so I gave them bare me. It’s also about decisions and opinions that didn’t need to be tempered by being the fruit of consensus, so, again, they got bare me. Amid whatever anxieties I have about being alone night after night, it bolsters me knowing that in this scenario I have not remained hidden from them.

And they know that this is their mother. The good, the bad, the grumpy, and the devoted.

And I have secured an honesty from them that would not have been forthcoming in a world guided by “Don’t tell, Dad.”

Life, it seems, is a continual coming to terms with the past so that the present is a breathing space that remains unclogged by regrets and guilt and tears.

Their respecting me for who I am, who we each has become, is the gift that makes breathing easy. 

Thinking about Tongues

Hot pink spring begins

Look! No snow.


Last night, on the first second date I’ve had in a long time, I experienced time travel. How my 13-year-old self entered my body the moment his tongue sought its way into my mouth is a wonder. But there I was, mother of two, uncertain how to react. It was odd to have someone searching his way into my mouth, making me understand that French kissing is a skill that one does forget. As I broke off kiss one and just as we were going into kiss two, it occurred to me that I don’t have to do this if I don’t want to. And so I stopped kiss two before it really began (right as that tongue came back in and I realized that I need to send mine out on a return foraging trip), said an awkward good night with an awkward hug, and got into my car.

All of which made me realize that the fumbler I had been in my younger years was not because I needed experience to kiss and make love like a mature woman, rather I needed passion beyond the lust, and that still holds true. It was a relief to realize that before I had the chance to ridicule myself for ineptitude, rather than listening to my tongue’s blunt signal.

When people ask the hypothetical: If you could, would you live your life all over again? I generally respond with a resounding Yes. Who wouldn’t want a chance for a great big REDO? (Except for my daughters, of course!) But now I wonder. That kiss made me comprehend, in a way that I hadn’t before, that I have neither the desire nor the energy to relive those endlessly demoralizing battles of self vs. norms vs. expectations vs. boys ever again.

I can remember a sixth-grade kiss in the playground in front of the apartment building where I grew up that pummeled me with doubt. Why did he kiss me? What else would he expect from me? What should I do? Was this okay? Did I want this? And, embarrassingly, what was his name? This set into motion a steady stream of uncertainties that ran in the back of my head far too often in the years to come. (Sadly, that was not the last time I entertained the name question.) The fact that those questions didn’t run in the back of my head when I met my ex-husband has made me even warier. What’s a woman to do who eventually thought that her intuition was trustworthy only to be confronted with its extreme fallibility?

With gratitude, in the minutes after I drove away from my potential paramour, I channeled back my 53-year-old self, the woman who has lived through her life and recognizes that the voice in her head is not the voice of frustrated hopes nor is it the whispered desires of men, but her own voice: a voice that knows that the only question to entertain is Do I want this—with this man? Because in those brief moments, I knew that I wanted it, as in romance and passion, but I wanted to feel my way into it, not think about it.

When I told a recently-divorced friend who is not dating that there would be no date three, she responded, “But you are trying and that is good.” I’m not sure if I agree with that; if anything, I have come to see that the more I date, the more skeptical I become. It’s so much harder to open up to someone once you don’t need anything and it is only a question of desires. Because once it’s about a desire, it’s also about being satisfied without.

And so I will go to bed alone, unable to even imagine what it would look or feel like to have someone beside me, but at least I’m not trampled by the implications of that knowledge, because there aren’t any.

Or maybe the implication is that I live in a state of contentment and possibility; kind of like opening the door on Passover for Elijah the Prophet to come in and have a sip of wine at your Seder. If he doesn’t come, you knew it wasn’t real any way; but just in case, there’s always next year.

Thanksgiving 2011

It’s Thanksgiving, but we’re having pizza and beer for dinner. Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving. Do I need to be surrounded by family to prove that I have what to be thankful for? And do I have to serve the requisite main course and sides and desserts (okay, the apple pie is ready for consumption tonight) and conversation-round-the-table about what we’re thankful for to make this a thankful day for me?

My boyfriend/partner is getting the pizzas. It will take him at least an hour at the frozen pizza section in the supermarket to pick out just the right pizzas. Luckily they close early today. On pizza and beer Fridays we always have two frozen pizzas: one veggie and one mucho cheese-o. But he will take his time thinking about which pizzas I would prefer tonight. The decision will be made by him making experienced-based assumptions about my taste buds today, not definites about himself.

It is the two of us, and Poops, everyone else is in absentia.

My older daughter is at college on the other coast. But the ticket cost is not the reason why she won’t be here. No, she’s there celebrating with her boyfriend and friends. And I am thankful and grateful that she has found a place where she is happy and people with whom she finds herself blossoming. I’ll never forget the mother stomach-lump that developed in an instant when her first grade teacher told me that she never smiles in class. And she has always been a solemn child. The curse of the bookworm, perhaps? Her happiness, from whatever distance, is to rejoice in.

And my younger daughter. Well, it’s her fault that we’re having Turkey Day tomorrow and not today. A friend invited her to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. Maybe they feel sorry for her that we’re divorced and her father is not around and that it’s just Kenny and me here on this family celebration day, or maybe they are thankful that their daughter has such a wonderful friend. I decided that Thanksgiving should be more about her happiness and gratitude to two women and the homes they make and make her feel comfortable in rather than sticking to the calendar (besides, we don’t watch football and we don’t Black Friday shop), so she’s with her friend’s family today and us tomorrow.

And my mother down in retirementland is going to the movies and then for a non-turkey dinner with a couple that doesn’t make her feel like the lonely widow. The holidays really are the hardest for her; there doesn’t seem to be a before and after, just a before, with my father—and the way it should be, not this being alone business.

My brother. A bit of aggravation there just to make sure that the subterranean theme of how families can be dangerous to one’s health is maintained even if Thanksgiving is not; he did not invite us to his family’s Thanksgiving Day repast. Granted, they’re five hours away, but I used to do the drive, even when it took nine hours in only-stop traffic. That is until I decided one year that I’ll wait for my invitation rather than invite myself. So here I sit, at home and not in Thanksgiving Day traffic since the invite never came.

Thanksgiving. Yes, I’m thankful that the people in my life seem happy and well-adjusted and purposeful. And me, I’m happy that I’m not stressed about cooking, because what kind of pressure can I have doing it a day late?

And I’m also thankful that at 50 (or 49 twice in a row) I feel healthy, I feel wise, I feel pretty, and I feel.

Happiness and Thanks to You All!

Romantic Weekend in Belfast

“Give us a hug.”

And with that tentative embrace, right after I stepped into the lobby of Belfast City Airport after almost 18-hours of traveling and waiting, and after being identified and identifying successfully, and with my red pocketbook slung over his back because I didn’t have a moment to put it down, we went back 28 years and we went forward 28 years. We went right back to the deep friendship we had already revived in our three months of daily hours-long email and phone conversations, but we also stepped into a romantic sphere that we had, because of our self-confidence-lacking 21-year-old’s and 22-year-old’s minds’, never broached. And so, a path not taken or a spark set ever so gently or a light at the end of a tunnel was brought into being.

And then there were the delicate kisses, or should I say the tentative checking to see if lips fit, if the mind interaction would be joined by its best bud: the body interaction. Indeed.

And with that four days of non-stop talking and walking and laughing and eating and lovemaking began. Yes, it was a wonderful weekend. Not wonderful because, as so many people have told me “I deserve to be happy,” but wonderful because it was in and of itself wondrous, not in comparison to what had come before, but in and of itself. What could be said about a man who not only looks right into my eyes when he tells me he loves me, but makes me feel that way when he makes me laugh, or sits down to eat a leisurely meal in a restaurant he had walked by for years but never went into because he didn’t have with whom he wanted to eat there. And what could be said of a man who doesn’t try to one-up a couple we met at the bed and breakfast where we stayed when they told us that theirs is a true love story because they got together again after breaking up three years ago.

Was it too easy? Should there have been an awkward phase to get over? Or was it that I was never with a man as a lover who was also the person who I felt the closest to, the person to whom I would reveal my secrets and my silliness? Had I never been in love with a friend, a best friend? Was that the secret? Not to want to run to tell anyone about what he said and did and how you felt because the person you want to talk to is there, across the table or across the pillow.

On one of our walks around Belfast, we walked around Titanic Quarter, where the Titanic was built. (A tee-shirt for sale in Belfast reads: The Titanic. Built by an Irishman. Sunk by an Englishman.) I remember when I saw the movie Titanic I thought how improbable the love story was. How, I thought, could a woman go from being with such a nasty, vile man as her fiancé to the loving and tender Jack? Here was my answer: in the man who was sharing with me a bag of chocolate-covered raisins as we sat next to the River Lagan and watched the current pick up and talked in the shadow of the cranes that held up the Titanic as it had been built. Sometimes we women learn from our mistakes. Yes, we do. We learn the difference between when a man says he loves you because of who you are—the good, the bad and the ugly (he did see me in the morning), and when a man says he loves you because he wants something from you.

Where do we go from here? Ah, the deliciously improbable is where. In nine days he will be moving here. This is not a trivial thing, especially for him. Twenty-eight years ago, when I left New York to move to Israel, he also left the states—only to return twice for two very brief visits more than 26 years ago. Without me here, this meltingly romantic man told me, he lost all desire to be in the states. And so, now, he is returning to a person he has loved for all those years and to a place he never expected to return to. And me, who has spoken of despair and lived through my personal hell; me, who was a pessimistic optimist, afraid to think I would ever be happy but afraid, too, to think I wouldn’t be; well, I am in love. In love with a man who is, according to the note his boss wrote for me, “a good guy.”

And after all those posts moaning about men who only want women who are thin or in shape or "care about their looks" or work out seven times a week, I have by my side a man who loves a curvy body--my curvy body.

So here I am. No longer alone. No longer wanting to be alone. I am looking forward to sharing my life with a man, my Kenny, who says to me, “Every day with you is the best day of my life.”

Yes, to be continued.

Life and love after a bitter divorce.

Plenty Beads

I used to finger the enough beads that my life was stringing for me. Enough bead after enough bead after enough bead of words and happenings that kept pushing me down, teasing me into thinking that they would end—that there would be a real enough point—but they just kept coming.

And then last June, when the house was sold and I could move out of the oppressive atmosphere, the stringing ceremonies stopped. And now new stringing ceremonies need to be instated. Now I am happily adding plenty beads to charm my days.

---It is pouring outside. What a joy. Once you live in Israel (or any place with a dry season), you can’t but appreciate a summer rain. It is beyond refreshing, it is life-affirming. Rain in the midst of unending heat. Even though I grew up in New York City, city of steamy summer rain storms, that seventeen-year break means that I do not take the soothing rains for granted. It is a blessing to be received.

---In a few days I will be going on vacation—I am taking my daughters to the Pacific Northwest for a week’s vacation. While my older daughter has shed her teenage skin and my younger daughter has grown it, they both wanted to go—or agreed to go—with me on vacation. Either way, it is still such a plenty bead on my formerly bare mother-joy necklace. And while I am not happy that my older daughter has not talked to her father for a while—as a result of his words and actions toward her—I can’t say that I’m not sorry that she has finally seen him for who he is.

---I have sent off query letters to agents for the book I began writing last summer. What a sense of satisfaction. And after the experience of writing this blog and receiving such supportive feedback, I believe that I have developed the type of skin necessary to not give up. Although, of course, I am sending out positive thoughts that this first round will elicit an invitation to send the manuscript and not just form rejection letters.

---And I have begun writing another book. And that also is wonderful. Of course it’s slow going, but I am pleased with the concept (which came to me about two weeks ago) and pleased that I am finding purpose in thinking about it and writing it.

---For three years I used to listen, night after night, to a call-in radio show, Delilah. People would call to say how wonderful their husband or wife is, asking for a song to be dedicated in his or her honor, or they would call, asking for a song that would temporarily soothe their broken hearts. Up until last June I would lay there on my love seat-bed, with the door of my room locked, and cry as I listened to people talking about how lucky they were, and I would cry as I listened to people cry out their pain, seeking a moment’s solace in a song.

I would cry because I could never imagine getting out of the misery that I felt encompassed me. Love and happiness seemed so foreign. How does one go from experiencing the harshness of a relationship that transformed itself into an endless battle to longing to think about someone? And even when people would say that that is precisely what had happened to them, I would be happy for them and envy them, but say, good for them, but that will not happen to me.

And now, now I am finding an opening in my heart for a man who searched for me to tell me that he has loved me since we were friends 28 years ago. How could I not reach out my hand to touch this preposterous bead? It feels as if the ineffable quality that oversees the wonders and ways of the world is presenting me with the most precious bead of plenty—a bead that grows to encompass all manner of well-being, fuzzy and infinite.

Pillars, Crutches, and Other Manner of Support Systems

As I lay in bed the other night trying to fall asleep with used tissues littering the floor, it occurred to me that beyond the pain of my father’s death, his loss was not just the loss of a father who could be counted on to exhibit and act on his concern for me on a daily basis but it was the loss of any remnant of being the beloved daughter as she was cared for in childhood. Not childhood in a child’s sense, but in the sense that in some families a child knows that her problems can be shared with her parents throughout her life (shared as in expressed, which somehow shifts the burden).

Now, I share my mother’s problems. I am her ears and shoulders when she needs to have someone listen to what she did that day and how she is feeling or doing that day. It is not right, or I don’t feel that it is right, to seriously share with her my thoughts and concerns. It’s not that she doesn’t ask me how I am doing and wants to honestly hear, but for once I realize that she just doesn’t need my unburdening. No, I need to be her vessel. Maybe this is a step in the maturity of a child, a bit late, but such was the relationship that I had with my parents.

During most of my marriage and before the divorce, when things were getting bad but not bad enough yet to act on them, I held all counsel within. Then, when it reached the point that I would drive away, week after week, from the house in tears and fear for my life, I finally broke down and called my parents. They became my pillars. They gave me money to hire a divorce lawyer. They listened to me as stories tumbled out about their “son”-in-law’s fierce nastiness. To them I could unendingly vent as I couldn’t with friends. What friend could really listen to the unbroken story of a broken heart as she is trying to live through the dramas of her own life?

Was it selfish that I unburdened on my parents? I don’t know. I know that it was too hard to deal with the pain of my life on my own and they were there to levitate the pain as much as possible.

And now, now I need to be here to help shift the burden of my mother’s pain and emptiness, and fears.

For my daughters I need to remain chief booster and boaster. That is what they need and deserve. That is what I have been trained to be.

Perhaps the time has finally come for me stand firm. Maybe I don’t need anyone to hold my tissue box for me. At first I thought that I still needed to be propped up, but now I am starting to feel like one of those blocks that stays in place even when the blocks around it have been removed. I stay in place only because those blocks transferred their power and strength to me.

Closure, What It Feels Like

I finally got to court on Wednesday; “got to” meaning that we were all there, including the judge, but we didn’t face the judge because nasty lady lawyer decided that we were not properly prepared to face the judge who would get mad at us all for arguing about little things, as in the Battle of the Grocery Store Receipts. That was, to a large extent, because, as she tried to make it out, I did not present the hundreds of pages of receipts and bills to her and her associate early enough to send to exman. Of course, I was never told that I needed to have them in to her early enough to send to him in advance (and in chronological order). She, of course, also said that it was because I got emotional over the summer when there was another delay and I need to, basically, act my age. I was also charged as guilty for not having continued to present receipts to him all the time, as it stated in the PSA but which he always ignored and so I stopped. 

But I don’t feel like mulling over how the lawyers I have encountered have failed me. In spite of her not preparing me to properly prepare for court, I do think she was the best lawyer I have encountered and too bad that I didn’t have her earlier instead of the lawyer who I thought was as good as could be when, in fact, he was incompetent. (Note to self and others: do as Charlotte did and go for the unattractive lawyer if you’re going with a man.)

Okay, the point. Nasty lady lawyer, who wouldn’t let exman rile her and abuse her as he has done to three associates at her law firm as well as the receptionist (imagine that, verbally abusing a receptionist) told exman off and, perhaps momentarily, put him in his little place. Her reaction to him: he’s extremely unattractive; he looks dissolute, as if he might, on occasion, be drinking too much; is seedy and unkempt looking; oh, and he is still in love with me and is devastated by the divorce. She even told him that he’s upset that I left him and it must hurt him that I am so cute. Oh, the woman has balls.

But that’s still not the point. The point is that I am finished, finished with worrying about him getting the better of me, of him getting away with owing me money. I’m just done. What has been has been, and now I am ready to let it go, so I won’t have more money to buy an apartment, and so I have spent too much money on lawyers, I am content as in not mad at myself for letting him win without putting up a fight and not disappointed in myself for having given in. Content that I have done all that I could have—should have—and content, too, that I have come out at the place where I am. 

For the first time I don’t see that another process will bring me anything I need—or that I will get—and am ready to let go. Sure, she said that she will meet with him to go over his receipts and my receipts (at no charge to me she even told him—and she charges quite a lot), but I don’t feel anchored to that in any way. No, I have left the anchor behind. I am no longer moored in any way to him and the marriage and the divorce. Does saying that negate saying it? No, I don’t think so. I really feel complete. Maybe that’s closure, not that there is a tidy end to something (and even an apology and a forgiving), but rather that you feel that no more needs to be done. Does closure happen when you sever your ties to something that had formerly held you? Not that you close a door, but rather that you pass through a doorway. So closure really is an opening, an opening into a space that doesn’t hold you to what had been. Closure, it’s not an end, it’s the gradual movement from one place to another. It is the personal passage from the past to the present.

NOTE: I absolutely loved the fact that this tough 60-something lawyer came to court in an obviously expensive black suit that was decorated with tiny rhinestones and  rhinestone-studded heart-shaped buttons. Oh, she was a sight to see. No power shoulder pads or asexual suiting, she was all woman—all 120 pounds of her in her three-inch heels, ready to do battle with any pin-stripe that came her way.

What I Learned this Thanksgiving

This year, as in the past four years, I went to New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with my brother and his wife’s family. It has become a wonderful opportunity for me to become a part of her family and for her family to become my family, as well as to meet up with my New York friends.

In past years the sympathy factor has been in my direction because I was still in the throes of the bitterness of my life/divorce. But now I have been in my own lovely apartment for six months, and the most visible remnant of the bitter divorce is the court case that's coming up in a week and a half (I haven’t given up on getting from him the $14,000 he owes me), all of which means that I am basically on par with everyone else in the “dealing with life” aspect of things. Which brings me to what I have uncovered or acknowledged: that we are all simply dealing with life. It doesn’t seem that we are enjoying it, rather we are simply handling the things that keep coming at us and we just keep going at it. I wonder, then, if we need to adjust our expectations so that the “dealing with” becomes less of an intrusion into what should be our unending happiness and instead we should understand that life as it’s lived is not just an intrusion but life itself. Would we feel better about our lives and ourselves if we expected the complications and not the beaches?

Most of those gathered round the table are in our forties and fifties, and we are all in the midst of lives that we have found to be ours—none of us can claim that this is the life he or she expected when we were the ages that our mostly teenage children are now. None of us was complaining in the “woe is me” way of the world, but we are all dissatisfied or still hoping for better times ahead or at least times that aren’t so full of pains, and exhaustion, and concerns.

Happiness. What is it? Is it sitting around a table passing plates and platters or is it being untouched on a pedestal? Is it sharing words spoken and heard, or unending attention? Is it sharing stories of aches or being free from compassion? I wonder.

I wonder if now that my house is as in order as it’s ever going to be the time has come to reassess what being thankful means.

Thankful. Full of thanks.

Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.

Thanks, not for what could have been or should have been, but for what is. Is that a new, working definition of happiness?

Friday Night, Alone

When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, there was no fourteen-year-old who greeted me by closing the door to her bedroom but then popping out a few minutes later to ask what’s to eat, nor was there a Maltese named Poops who jumped up and danced on his hind legs when he saw me. There was only the dining room table with its self-created collection of piles to greet me. It's his weekend with them both.

I unpacked the bag of groceries that I bought for my evening at home, trying to ignore the silence by turning on the radio. I put away the frozen pizza and the two bottles of beer. After I responded to some emails, I went into my daughter’s room, piled her clothes on a chair as I had done when I was her age instead of the floor mounds that she prefers, arranged her five pillows on her bed, lay down, and lifted up the remote for what would be hours of unending numbness. It’s not that my job is so hard that I need to unwind so intensely, perhaps it’s because I don’t watch tv other than those Friday nights (okay, the occasional Saturday night if I’ve been grading or on the computer for too long—I think I need a “life”) but it is time that enables me to detach from my mind. Perhaps this is how I meditate. Sometimes it gets hard to think and be aware.

So there I was, on a hot pink sheet for hours watching Say Yes to the Dress and House Hunters International. The thought of why it is always those two programs that I return to kept trying to break into my mindlessness. Is it because I like to see people so happy, so ready to step into another phase of their lives, that I want to become a voyeur? Is it that I wish that for myself and so I live vicariously through them? Maybe it’s a bit of both; maybe I’m anticipating more change. But it’s also that there is nothing else that I can settle my mind onto. I cannot watch the news or opinion shows because I’m tired of listening to people open and close their mouths repeatedly without saying anything. (I don’t ignore the news, I still read mine.) I know, I know, I’m sure some of my students say that about me [especially the ones who wrote “I hate this class” on my “What I Want to Do This Year” sign on the backboard before I ripped it off in a moment that combined hurt and bitchiness (no one was there to witness this act)]. And I can’t watch scripted programs because everything is so fake and contrived that I don’t see how I could ever have been compelled to watch so much falsity in writing and acting.

How bare can I make my life? Is that why I need to watch tv every once in a while? How much can my life, a life, revolve around one’s actions and thoughts and the people one encounters? Is that why we read and watch? Is that how we expand our circle if we need it to be larger than it is in reality? Or do we need to incorporate ideas and people and images that don’t always challenge us and demand attention from us on a personal level? Do I need the numbness because there are so many people I need to care about everyday that I need to just stop sometimes? In a week I have about 185 students, each is an individual who I need—want—to understand and reach, and who I care about. Maybe it is about the job. Maybe it’s more draining than I realized. I get up in front of my classes three times a day and on religious school days, four or six times a day. And each time I’m on stage; I need to sense the audience and project, and thrust my personality out so that it meshes with the instruction. Is that why I don’t watch dramas? Not because of the corny stories and plasticine acting, but because I have too many lives to care about that I cannot expand my heart anymore?

Is this about self-preservation? Do I need to return my thoughts and cares to myself instead of always extending them and sharing them? Do I need to come back to myself at the end of the week because if I didn’t there wouldn’t be anything to share the next week? When I walk, I think. When I read, I think. When I watch, I detach. Maybe it’s not as much of a time-waster as I thought.

Where’s the remote?

Random Thoughts on a Sunny Sunday

 • How is it that we are supposed to help a country, Iraq, if so many people there find that killing each other is better than learning to live with each other? Yes, it’s only a few who are terrorists. Yes, the terrorists might not even be from there. Yes, maybe the terrorists became terrorists after the US-invasion and occupation. But still, it’s hard to keep caring about people who keep blowing themselves up. Blowing each other up at weddings, while shopping, while looking for a job, while working, and worst of all, while mourning a loss at a funeral. Isn’t there a purpose to life other than another person’s death?

• Why do wealthy people register for gifts when they get married? Really? People need to buy gifts for Ivanka Trump and her new husband, who are both from real estate empire families. Can’t a person ever say enough? Why not a gift registry of organizations to donate to if they feel that they always deserve something? They should be ashamed of themselves.

• I wonder what happens in a teen’s mind that enables him to transition from writing essays that are merely lists in paragraph form to writing essays that analyze? Now I know why I’m happy to be teaching 12th graders and not just 9th graders: there are the occasional thoughts swirling around.

• Helicopter parents are not the only helicopters around, this morning I observed a helicopter wife. Really? He can’t put his own food into the microwave and spread the butter on his own bagel? He can hold the door for you but he can’t carry his cup of coffee? Are thoughts like these a reason why I am unattached?

• There is a man out there with whom I will find comfort, but I don’t know if we will find each other.

• Being a three-quarter empty-nester is better than being a complete empty-nester, but my, how I miss being on-duty all of the time. I’m pleased that both of my daughters are independent, and that I am independent of them, but it’s still hard to have a few dishes that reflects my eating and snacking habits.

• It’s beautiful outside. It’s time to put a bra on and go pick up my daughter from her weekend. She will probably say “okay” and turn away when I ask her how her weekend was. But we will be together on this beautifully sunny afternoon for at least a little while and I will be relieved from the pressure of thinking about myself and the world we live in. Enjoy the day.

5770: Starting Off Quietly

On Saturday evening I went to a friend’s house for a mid-holiday Rosh HaShanah (New Year) dinner. Besides me, there were three couples and their two, two, and one children. I had thought before the evening that I would feel a stab of discomfort or loss at my unaccompanied presence. For a brief moment before it was time to go I even considered cancelling and staying wed to my couch. But I didn’t. It could be that my friend and her friends and family were all interested and interesting people so the conversation flowed easily and I didn’t get caught in any down-times in conversation that left me without a built-in conversation partner.

Have I overcome a hump? The “I’m alone” hump? Am I now resolutely in the “it’s okay to be alone” phase? Is this what it feels like to be a person who is not dependent on another or with others dependent on her—or wishing that someone would depend on me? Should I rejoice in this chance to focus on what I want to focus and not moan that one daughter is in California and the other spent the holiday with her father? Is this my chance to be stripped of imposed-upon roles so that I can whittle myself down to my own essence? It’s as if I can feel the layers of personhood that I was and still am, but now I can also clearly discern the self—my self. Enough time was given up to the regret phase that I am purified of it, and so this transcendence doesn’t feel like a trick of a mourning self, but the very real reflection of a person who respects herself and her life.

So this is what it’s like to be me. I talk read write critique listen laugh greet walk observe eat shop cook drive plan think inquire doubt. I don’t seem to do anything. But perhaps that is not essential to me. The doing is the living. This is my life. It doesn’t need highlights to be a highlight. Satisfied with who I am, does that mean that I am not looking for someone to redefine me? Does it mean, too, that I will not let someone else redefine me? I hope so. It’s taken a while to reach this configuration of self; a while and a journey. It seems that I do things. But I also contemplate them.

I have begun 5770. A new year. Stepping into a new year with the fullness of how the years past have wrought me and excited for how I will hone the future, moment by moment. 

Waking from a Nap

On Friday afternoon I took my usual afternoon nap so that I could make it past eight o’clock still a member of the adult community. I napped on a couch in my lovely living room, facing the large sliding glass doors that are always open except when I go to sleep or when I’m not at home. When I woke the sky was in shades of gray; I tried not to think, but just to feel the coolness and the calm. When I finally got up I put on, for the first time in a few seasons, my light, at-home sweater that I bought years ago at a street market in Tel Aviv with a friend. The September chill felt more comforting than the heat of the summer. While I lay there my mind was focused on the now. It was a lovely interlude from the preoccupations of a wake and expressive self. It was a lovely interlude from the intensity of the first week of school and having to deal with exman and his stringent demand to adhere to the letter of the custody agreement that we drew up three years ago.

In a phone conversation later my mother told me that I shouldn’t think about how I had a lawyer who let me negotiate from a point a weakness and not a point of strength, but that was after we once more picked apart how utterly petty and evil my ex-husband is. It’s not that he really wants my younger daughter there, no. He even said to me in one of the fourteen calls that he made to me in the course of two hours the other night, and which he recorded, that he thinks I want her to stay with me more than is written in the agreement because I want to get more money from him. This is a man who has not paid a penny of child support since we moved out of the house in June. This is a man who ignored this wonderful girl for years while he tried to infiltrate the mind of my older daughter, until she went across the country to get away from him. This is a man who uses and manipulates.

The mantra that a friend told me I should recite to myself is “you’re out of there,” and that is good. I cannot tell you how at peace and happy I am in my apartment. And even the new school year and teaching a grade that I never taught before and needing to create all new lesson plans and teaching four different classes at religious school are all exciting and invigorating. So I know what feeling good is like. But the ache I have for my daughter is intense. As a glass half-full person I tell myself that at least I didn’t have to fulfill the custody agreement when the girls were younger, when it was both of them, that now, at least, his negativity and emotional cruelty towards me and the world will have less of an impact on my daughter, my sweet, sweet daughter who is no longer such an impressionable child.

But it’s so unbelievably hard having to deal with someone who is so very poisonous.

When I told him that I don’t want to have to talk to him, that I want to do these movement-of-daughter discussions via email and to please give me his email address he refused, because he doesn’t want to get emails from me. And when, after his recitation of his time calculations that will enable me to somewhat change the agreement for one week to confirm to my daughter’s request, I told him to just tell me when he would be over and if he was bringing Poops, his response to me was “don’t dictate to me.” My reasoned response was, “I’m hanging up.” And I did. Nor did I answer another one of his insane calls. I turned the sound off my cellphone so I wouldn't even have to be aware of them.

I know there are people who act as intermediaries between formerly-married couples so they don’t have to talk to each other. But I’m too tired of spending money on that man. I will try to deal with him on my own, and I will continue to strengthen myself by standing up to him—for me and my daughter-s. My mantra when dealing with him needs to be “He’s just a bully” because that’s all he is.

I can’t believe how endless this is.

In our conversation the other night my mother reminded me that he had told me that he will hound me until he can spit on my grave. He can’t do that. I am determined to compartmentalize my interactions with him, in fact, the writing of this post is the lighting of the fire and the extinguishing of it for this episode.


Today I wrote eight pages of my novel, which I can proudly say has reached 90 pages and which I am very pleased with. And I took Poops for two half-hour walks. And I created three handouts for my students (one each on apostrophes, commas and an in-class reading log). So I no longer let him impact me, much.

One day it will be four years from now and younger daughter will be off to college. And the burden of marrying wrong will have lifted even more from me—and them. But I will not wish those years to fly past; I want to enjoy my daughter as she grows into the woman she will become. And I want to enjoy listening to her sister blossom with each and every phone call. I will taste the sweetness and let the bitterness fall to the bottom of my cup, unstirred and undisturbed.

I can't resist

I can't help but laugh when I see the blustering Dick Armey in the news lately. He comes off as a man of no morals, and for whom money and strong arm tactics are central--to hell with people. He talks of tyranny as a man who knows--does anyone seem more tyrannical than him? Is it any wonder that exman, when he was still on his way up, found a friend and mentor in Dick Armey? They were buds for a while.

Arrogant men, can't they just bother each other and leave the rest of us alone?